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1st EVER VCS (Verra) Validation field audit of a REDD+ project – 2010

Please take a breath.

First off, I would like to say that I am disappointed in many who were quick to rush to conclusions after several media outlets misreported the relationship between the Rimba Raya REDD+ project and Indonesian authorities.

Sensational headlines often called “click bait” sound enticing until one realizes that the reporter didn’t verify the facts or consider the broader context of such facts. To those reporters who verified with us and confirmed what we knew and what we did not know, hats off and thank you for being a professional. To the others … shame on you. An amazing project and people’s lives are on the line here. This type of reporting has become common in our industry.

Industry in its infancy? NO, it’s in its conception! Learning by doing.

Rimba Raya began in 2008, when the concept of using carbon finance to slow deforestation had barely been conceived, let alone entered its infancy.

Palm oil plantations were devouring forests across Indonesia, and the Kyoto Protocol had left forest conservation out of the Clean Development Mechanism.

Hundreds of researchers had spent the years since the 1992 Earth Summit experimenting with new methods of quantifying deforestation risk and developing pilot projects to end deforestation, but when it came to scaling up, there was a lot of talk and a lot of deforestation but no mature standard, no established accounting methodology to measure the emissions impact, and no proven market or government regulations.

There was simply a global call to embark on a “learn by doing” journey with the goal of giving birth to REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation).

Did we do everything perfectly? Of course not, but we delivered verified results that we stand by.

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First meeting between Dr Galdikas and Todd Lemons – 2007 

In 2007, my partner and friend, Todd Lemons, the architect of Rimba Raya, decided to act on the talk about UNREDD, sought out Dr. Birute Galdikas (Preeminent expert on Orangutans) to find an area to save from deforestation and create a reserve for OrangutansWithout examples of a Redd PDD to follow, he began writing a PDD in earnest, putting enormous hours into researching and writing. Simultaneously we started pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into acquiring the rights to the oil palm concessions that Dr. Galdikas identified as the single biggest threat to Tanjung Puting National Park and the last high-density population of orangutans that call it home. The hundreds of thousands grew to millions as we worked to develop the project. 

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This would have been the future of the Rimba Raya area had InfiniteEARTH not intervened. 

Simple Luck and Good Timing

Everything about the process was uncharted territory. First methodology, First VCS validation audit, and carbon was a totally foreign concept in Indonesia. We had to learn as we went. Rimba Raya is one of the most acclaimed and highly rated projects in the world. Why is it so highly rated? While getting the Rimba Raya project off the ground and approved by the government was incredibly difficult, heartbreaking, financially devastating for many years, the qualities that make Rimba Raya so special were there due to simple luck and good timing. The area that we now call Rimba Raya had several concessions gazetted for oil palm and the palm oil company that owned them had let those applications lapse. We (through PT Rimba Raya Conservation, our subsidiary at the time) went to the local office of the MOF (Ministry of Forestry) and applied for the same area and in due course we conditionally received them. What does that mean? It means, we had discreet areas that were to be converted and drained to be planted with oil palm, 100% certainty of intent to convert, and the history of what that conversion would look like in that area. It was a perfect project as far as additionality.

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2010 Validation Audit

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2020 Verification Audit

No regulations, few sales, and dark times, it’s a miracle Rimba survived.

Rimba Raya should not have to be judged by those who only seek to criticize from the sidelines. We have been doing the work the best we can under uncertain circumstances, withstanding the scrutiny of over 5 international audits by reputable auditing firms, rating agencies and customers. The science used was (and remains) the best available at the time. The Indonesian government didn’t have regulations other than the type of license we sought. They just recently released regulations after a moratorium was instituted on credit sales from all projects in Indonesia (not just Rimba) in 2021. No regulations, not much of an industry or even substantial sales until 2021, frankly it is a miracle that Rimba survived which is mostly due to Allianz Insurance standing by us from the very beginning and giving us enough revenue that lasted many years when sales were lean or barely existent.

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Water filtration Initiative 

Please take some time to read the following facts and some news articles confirming such facts before rushing to judgement and as one article said, let’s see if Rimba Raya can survive this latest challenge. InfiniteEARTH has done our best to keep Rimba Raya afloat and we sincerely hope that somehow, we can revive the project and show the world that Rimba Raya is not only a survivor of past challenges, but is an example of a project that never gives up.

FACTS about Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve

Carbon Accounting Area through 2019 – 47,237 ha comprised of three areas each with different agreements – all verified by auditors.

  1. 27,977 ha – concession held by PT Rimba Raya Conservation
  2. 12,359 ha – a co-management area with TPNP – Signed by the Park
  3. 6,806 ha – a management agreement with prominent palm oil company
  4. 95 ha – Seruyan District Lands via agreement

Project Area through 2019 was 64,597ha which included a 17,360 ha protection buffer area from which IE received no carbon credits

  1. 36,954 ha – concession held by PT Rimba Raya Conservation
  2. 18,642 ha – a co-management area with TPNP – Signed by the Park
  3. 8,906 ha – a management agreement with prominent palm oil company
  4. 95 ha – Seruyan District Lands via agreement

In 2012 after investing all the development funds, IE was required to divest its ownership in its subsidiary PT Rimba Raya Conservation and take on local partnersWhile we continued to operate the project we designed, compliance to local laws is exclusively in the hands of the local partners.  

FAQ on Rimba Raya, InfiniteEARTH and the Current Situation

When IE founded the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve, the area that became a “co-management” area was slated to be converted into palm oil plantation. Due to InfiniteEARTH’s actions through PT RRC, this area was then designated to be part of the project. In 2009, RRBR received conditional approval (SK.617/MenhutII/2009), for its total area by the Ministry of Forestry for 89,175 ha. This was later reduced to 64k when the Ministry realized the balance had already been deforested by the oil palm company. Between the time the RRBR was founded in 2009 and 2011 when the actual license was received and Verra validated the project, the national park boundaries were changed (No.SK 292/Menhut-II/2011 and SK592/Menhut-II/2012). Part of the project area that was originally granted to RR, became part of the National Park.  On March 29, 2013, Ir. SOEWIGYO, Head of the National Park signed the collaboration agreement so that the carbon accounting area would be consistent with the VCS Validation in 2011. THUS, implicitly acknowledging and agreeing with the VCS Validation that the agent of change originally preventing that land from being deforested was in fact FIRST InfinteEARTH/PTRRC prior to it being included in the National Park.

Because the project demonstrably prevented deforestation in a forest area that wasn’t yet a national park at the time. Our timely application for the forest concession license secured this area and prevented its conversion into a palm oil plantation. In the Verra rules, it states “A project activity is additional if it can be demonstrated that the activity results in reductions or removals that are in excess of what would be achieved under a “business as usual” scenario and the activity would not have occurred in the absence of the incentive provided by carbon markets”. Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve demonstrated additional emission reductions from that portion of land in the national park with InfinteEARTH intervention.

With the above said, since the Indonesian Government now is developing and releasing regulations, we will await further guidance on whether that area will be allowed by SRN to be part of Rimba Raya post 2019. If not, we will of course comply with all laws and regulations.

No – as it has been audited 5 times prior to any issuances – all emission reductions have been audited and the buffer area of the project is over 17k ha, all protected and emissions avoided YET never credited as an example of conservatism.

The answer is currently unknown, as national regulations will always be considered by Verra. The project has not been verified by Verra since 2019 as there is currently no mutual recognition agreement between SRN and Verra. in 2022 the Project was validated by SRN but only the concession area of 36,331 ha was considered at that time.

NO – it is a distribution agreement for FUTURE credits should they be issued in the future. No credits were purchased or transferred. It was NOT a presale or sale at all.

Under the terms of the benefits share agreement, InfiniteEARTH remitted the revenues share AND local taxes due to Indonesia to its local partner and concession holder, PT Rimba Raya Conservation. We were told by PT Rimba Raya that all taxes were paid. We have always cooperated and complied with any information request from the government when asked, including recently.

InfiniteEarth has never received a copy of any revocation. Neither from PT Rimba Raya Conservation nor any branch of the Indonesian Government. We only know what has been reported.

We at InfiniteEARTH are not surprised nor discouraged by struggle or hardships.  Rimba Raya was born into struggle and hardship since its inception in 2008. We have always managed the uncertainties, including the three-year moratorium on carbon sales, while successfully managing the project and complying with evolving government regulations. In 2022 InfiniteEARTH (through its subsidiary InfiniteEARTH Nusantara) successfully navigated another FIRST, being the first REDD project to validate under the new Indonesian SRN system.

We will continue to fight to preserve the project we worked so hard to bring into existence. As always, we will work with the Indonesian government in any capacity they require.